Seven million children are living with asthma in the United States and many of them are using their inhalers incorrectly. Poor inhaler technique fails to deliver nearly 70 to 80 percent of medications deep into the airways where they are needed. That’s leading to unnecessary asthma attacks, emergency room visits and hospital admissions. But it could all be avoided.
To correct simple mistakes that could lead to serious complications, experts at National Jewish Health – the nation’s leading respiratory hospital – come up with a list of the top 10 mistakes their patients were making and an easy to follow guide to fix them. As a result, kids and their parents are breathing easier.
“We see a lot of children, in fact, who just don’t know how to use their inhalers at all,” said BJ Lanser, MD, a pediatrician and asthma specialist at National Jewish Health in Denver. “For whatever reason, they were given the inhalers but were never taught the proper techniques in how to use them, and that can lead to serious problems.”
If your child uses an inhaler to control asthma, here are some tips to help them get the most out of their medicine:
- Always stand when using an inhaler. Standing allows the lungs to fully expand so the medication can get where it is needed most.
- Look straight ahead. You want to make sure your head is in a neutral position, not leaning forward or backward. This will help direct the medicine into your airways and prevent it from collecting in your mouth.
- Before you inhale, exhale. Have your child take some normal breaths and then a big, deep breath, then fully exhale so the lungs are empty. Then, when your child inhales, the medicine gets deep into the lungs.
- Inhale slowly. Even if you are having trouble breathing at the time, be sure to inhale your medicine slowly. If you hear a whistling sound from your spacer, you know you are inhaling too quickly.
- Close your lips around the mouthpiece. Because the medicine is aerosolized, it can easily escape the mouthpiece, so be sure to make a tight seal with your lips to get all the medication into your lungs.